Many teens may go to school with snow on the ground this time of year, but it’s not too early for them to think about summer plans.
Some high school programs for the upcoming summer have application deadlines that have already passed or are fast approaching.
Academic programs at prestigious colleges are one of many experiences teens can pursue this summer. Teens and their parents can start planning for summer now by completing the following tasks.
1. Research summer opportunities: Families can start by seeing what’s out there, while narrowing down a teen’s interests and keeping their budget in mind, says Sara Zessar, founder of Discovery College Consulting in Denver.
There may be experiences available locally, such as camps, workshops, volunteer opportunities or internships, she says. Teens could also shadow a professional in a field they are interested in.
2. Consider cost: Some academic summer programs cost thousands of dollars, Zessar says, but there are other low-cost and free opportunities. Teens could also get a job – which could be a valuable experience where teens actually make money, she says.
“That is underrated now,” says Angela Um, chief consultant at Boston Academic Consulting Group and a former admissions officer at Harvard University and MIT.
Many summer programs offer students financial aid, says Um.
Teens should apply early – much earlier than the deadline asks – if they are looking for financial aid for a better shot at receiving some, says Joan Rosenberg, principal of Jericho High School in New York and a former school counselor.
The Telluride Association offers free summer programs for intellectually curious teens who complete academic seminars.
3. Allow plenty of time to obtain admissions materials: Summer programs may require transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays and more for admission.
Teens should allow at least a couple of weeks for educators to provide transcripts and letters of recommendation, Rosenberg says.
Students applying to a performing arts summer program could ask their theater director or dance teacher for help in preparing an audition piece, if needed, says Zessar.
The Interlochen summer arts camp in Michigan offers programs in motion picture arts, dance, creative writing and more. Some programs require auditions or portfolios for admission.
4. Remind teens they should spend summer doing what’s best for them: Many competitive colleges do ask applicants how they spend their summers, says Um. But students shouldn’t be quick to sign up for the popular summer program of the moment.
She encourages students to pause and reflect on what it is they really love to do, then determine how they want to spend their summer. December and January is a good time for teens to think about this as most deadlines for summer programs occur in February, March and April.
Teens should be consistent in spending their summers working on their passion – that will show a track record of persistence and commitment, which colleges are looking for, Um says.
Zessar tells families to remember they don’t have to spend a ton of money for teens to do something meaningful with their summer.
“Many students need that time off in the summer to kind of refresh themselves and to not necessarily be studying or be in school,” says Rosenberg. “Many need that downtime, so make sure that the child is interested in doing this.”